Assessing Houston's Forested Habitat

Assessing Houston's Forested Habitat


The City of Houston has a total of 380 parks totaling 35,742 acres. Approximately 16,000 of those acres are forested habitat, each totaling over an acre in size. A method for prioritizing and assessing these areas was first established in 2017 to determine management needs and funding requirements. Assessment began with aerial imagery to measure the amount of park land that was currently forested or not being utilized for other purposes. Additionally, there was a need to determine the historic habitat type of the natural areas and to determine funding amounts needed to reach restoration goals. A common issue shared by many of the natural areas was the prevalence of invasive vegetation that dominated these sites. 

Prior to this time, the priority had been given to street trees through a comprehensive inventory to support tree ordinance mitigation requirements. Additionally, in 2015 the US Forest Service collected data on the tree canopy cover and species composition of trees within the City of Houston, including both natural and urbanized areas.

In a nutshell, this resource offers:

  • A methodology for remote sensing, GIS, and ground-truthed forest assessments.
  • A table that suggests number of plots per acre for on-the-ground forest assessment.
  • A thoughtful discussion of invasive species prevalence in areas that were originally coastal prairie but have transitioned to forest in the absence of natural processes.

How to use this resource:

  • As a starting point for developing a forest or natural area assessment protocol in your city.

Author: Justin Bower, Jeremy Burkes, Kelli Ondracek

Date published: 2020

Point of contact: Justin Bower, Planner, Houston Galveston Area Council, Justin.Bower@h-gac.com 

Citation: Bower, J.; Burkes, J.; and Ondracek, K. 2020. Assessing Houston’s Forested Habitat. Cities and the Environment (CATE): Vol. 13: Iss. 1, Article 3.

Resource is available online here.

 

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